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None of the top politicians and political parties making promises about free houses and hundreds of electricity units for the poor — all made and never honoured before — will be able to deliver on them even if they really wanted to; that is, if this weren’t just that time of the electoral cycle when they are forced to trade the usual pack of lies for people’s votes.

And then they wonder why, as one editorial in a leading daily noted, the “energy, enthusiasm and richness one usually associates with elections with Pakistan remained missing” this time.

Then they go on to ask if this is because of the “prevailing impression that this was not a fair fight”, as if the fight was fair when all the “energy, enthusiasm and richness” was not missing. Why doesn’t any, preferably all, of them admit that there isn’t a thing they can do for the common man? And whichever party wins by whatever margin, or even in the more likely outcome of a hung parliament, the first thing the new setup will do is agree to all the harsh “upfront conditions” the IMF demands for the next bailout programme.

Why don’t election rallies and manifestos even so much as touch upon the fact that the country is on the brink of sovereign default? It must pay back something between $75-90 billion to creditors over the next three fiscal years. And being on an active IMF programme is the only thing that keeps those repayments rolling over. And also – the most anti-people part of it – the Fund demands strict compliance with “structural reforms” that mandate raising taxes and cutting subsidies.

Hence the bad press for governments over the last few years. The last people-friendly measure from the top was in April 2022, when then PM Imran Khan reversed a petrol price hike – even though that was more about the no-confidence motion against his government than the people — and the IMF immediately suspended the EFF (Extended Fund Facility).

So why subject myself to the pain of election rallies and hollow manifestos and then the torture of casting my “precious vote” and pretend to be part of the Foreign Office’s politically correct nonsense about “fostering inclusive government” when it doesn’t matter at all who wins and celebrates or who loses and disputes the result, as always? Just a glance at some of the headlines of the day before the election will tell you why.

Ogra allows second gas price hike of the year; dire challenges will give little room to new government; PTI, PPP, PML-N lack strategies for democratic, economic, security challenges, etc. This just days after another petrol price hike which came on the heels of yet another electricity tariff hike; all to keep IMF’s money coming and the threat of default at a safe distance.

But the most important is S&P hints at upgrading Pakistan’s credit rating, which says that the rating agency will consider upgrading Pakistan to ‘B’, from the current ‘CCC+’ “if the new government will move towards securing the next IMF programme after the ongoing one”.

The improved rating will mean that “the nation has the capacity to repay the foreign debt on time but still faces a degree of uncertainty that could lead to missing the repayment obligation later on”.

So, no roti, kapra, free bijli or makaan for ordinary Pakistanis whose votes can make the difference between victory and defeat for the elite that lords over them. And definitely no difference in my kitchen bill whether more people put their thumb marks on the lion, arrow or what was the bat on this fateful day; or if there is a low or high “voter turnout”.

And to make matters worse they’ll even shut down the internet so Pakistanis can exercise their right to vote and foster representative government in the Islamic Republic, leaving people like me wondering how they will send their day’s work to the boss.

I might still have bothered to vote for a party that promised to finally bring the big fish – tax-evading feudal lords, real state mifias and influential trader power groups – into the tax net. But since “electables” for all parties come from exactly these categories, it’s no surprise that no such thing is on any of their manifestos, and it’s very clear that all incremental taxes that’ll keep IMF lending flowing will be extracted from people just like me.

So, no thank you, I’m not voting.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


Comments are closed.

Az_Iz Feb 08, 2024 07:30am
Politicians from opposition parties are being intimidated in various ways in India. Bangladesh had farce elections. Everyone is pretty much in the same boat.
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Az_Iz Feb 08, 2024 07:32am
If India, Pakistan and Bangladesh should stop holding elections, and go for lucky draw, it will save time and money.
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Dr Javwad Malik Feb 08, 2024 11:34am
Please see if it needs correction: You begin with "None of the top..." Then after a dash - , you write "will not be able to..."
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Spaceman Feb 08, 2024 02:43pm
@Az_Iz - The difference is that in India & Bangladesh it is still the most popular party that forms the govt. So unlike Pakistan, the will of the people prevails which is the essence of democracy.
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Shahab Jafry Feb 08, 2024 05:28pm
@Dr Javwad Malik , Thank you, much appreciated.
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Az_Iz Feb 08, 2024 05:45pm
@Spaceman, then why is the opposition intimidated? The ruling party is not sure of the outcome.
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KU Feb 08, 2024 06:09pm
The civil-anarchy and mismanagement of state is unfolding before us and is a continuation of at least 5 decades of plunder. Its foolish to hope and place our faith for better future.
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Az_Iz Feb 08, 2024 06:15pm
@Spaceman, if elections are fair,only then, you can know if the will of the people has prevailed. Else it is all speculation.Even polling before and after elections,get it wrong, very badly, so often.
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Az_Iz Feb 08, 2024 06:20pm
@Spaceman, even scientific polling cannot predict accurately the outcome of elections. The will of the people has prevailed is just speculation,when there is intimidation, and rigging, in India or BD.
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Ghassan Feb 08, 2024 06:57pm
Well put. With the SIFC, elected governments will have even less autonomy. I have no interest in voting for a puppet — waste of time for everyone.
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Spaceman Feb 08, 2024 10:36pm
@Az-_iz In India the BJP has the people's mandate to intimidate dynastic rule. BJP get away because majority support it. They have the popular vote. In Pakistan the popular vote is being intimidated!
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Az_Iz Feb 09, 2024 04:07am
@Spaceman, the BJP gets about 37% of the vote. The majority did not vote for it.
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Az_Iz Feb 09, 2024 04:15am
@Spaceman, with 37% of the votes, which according to you is a majority, the bjp intimidates others.Brings down state governments,not respecting the will of the people who voted for those governments.
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T Feb 09, 2024 07:02am
idiots running to vote as if they are going to see a new and improved pakistan tomorrow, this should open their eyes if not their brain.
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Spaceman Feb 09, 2024 03:30pm
@Az_iz In a parliamentary system, the majority is determined based on the number of seats won and not the percentage of total votes. BJP still has the highest % among parties, even by simple majority.
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Az_Iz Feb 09, 2024 07:19pm
@Spaceman, 37% should not intimidate the other 63%. Toppling other state governments, means not respecting the people who voted for them. Toppling is mostly done with offer of power and money.
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Az_Iz Feb 09, 2024 07:28pm
@Spaceman, technically it is a majority. But it does not mean, the majority of the people agree with the dirty politics being played. Offering money and power to bring down elected state governments.
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